Leave Lee’s ego behind before a comeback

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Leave Lee’s ego behind before a comeback

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Will Lee Chun-soo come back to the K-League?

Chunnam Dragons FC would have liked to start the Year of the Dragon with good news, but so far the club has dealt with the unwelcome controversy regarding the potential return of Lee, a haughty former player.

The 30-year-old has been a trouble maker throughout his career. The cocky but talented forward has repeatedly made controversial comments and behaved recklessly, earning him a “bad boy” image. He has appeared frequently not only in the sports section of the newspaper, but in reports covering battery charges and gossip columns discussing various scandals with actresses.

Lee and Chunnam have an uncomfortable and perplexing history. In fact, the footballer and the football club are currently fighting in court over contract-related financial issues.

In 2009, Chunnam brought in Lee, giving the winger a chance to play for the club. Lee had been suspended from the K-League at the request of Suwon Samsung Bluewings FC - who acquired the player through a loan deal with the Dutch side Feyenoord - after he showed a loose attitude in training sessions and had disputes with the coaching staff.

Former Chunnam coach Park Hang-seo (who is now at the helm of Sangju Sangmu Phoenix FC) convinced Suwon to remove Lee from the suspended players list, hoping his efforts would revive the volatile footballer’s career. Park had already experienced dealing with Lee during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, during which Korea reached the semifinals.

But the stint in Chunnam turned out to be worse than Suwon’s experience. Lee’s temper didn’t go away as he clashed with the coaching staff again, forcing the club to permit his move to Saudi Arabia’s Al Nasr, which lured Lee with a big contract.

The conflict quickly unraveled into a mud slinging contest, with Lee claiming there was a dual contract with Chunnam, which was later proved an erroneous claim. He eventually lost the trust of fans in the K-League. Feeling betrayed and disrespected, Chunnam put him on a “withdrawal list” again, suspending him from all K-League actions.

After leaving Chunnam, Lee, who is the first Korean to play in the Spanish La Liga with Real Sociedad in 2003,went through a salary dispute again and last year played for Japan’s Omiya Ardija.

Since then, it had been rumored that Lee is looking for a K-League comeback. It turns out these rumors are true. The 2005 K-League MVP asked for forgiveness late last year and posted a letter of apology on Chunnam’s Web site last week.

But it seems as though his comeback will not happen soon. Chunnam quickly made a statement affirming that it is not considering the release of Lee from suspension, saying his apology “lacks sincerity” and his comeback would set a bad example for similar cases.

The return of Lee to the K-League will certainly create buzz and will bring more attention from fans. But to make that happen, like Chunnam said, Lee first has to show a more sincere apology, not only to Chunnam but to the league in general. So far, Lee has yet to make any sincere movements.

It’s too early to judge the comeback of Lee right now.

Chunnam officials should not be too close minded with this issue but I hope Lee is not planning another one his ego-driven personal shows using the people’s sympathy.


By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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